U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block same‑sex marriages in Florida

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — Same-sex marriages may soon begin in Florida after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday refused to extend a stay past Jan. 5 of a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s gay marriage ban.

In a one-paragraph order, the court decided not to step into the Florida case.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who in August declared the Florida ban unconstitutional, put his ruling on hold pending appeals that were further along in other federal courts.

After the U.S. Supreme Court in October turned away appeals from five states, Hinkle said his stay would remain in place until end-of-day Jan. 5.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the ban in place while it pursued an appeal of Hinkle’s ruling. The appeals court refused to extend the stay, but said it would consider the substance of the state’s appeal on an expedited basis.

On Monday, Bondi filed an emergency petition asking the Supreme Court to keep the ban in place beyond Jan. 5.

Friday’s action by the Supreme Court means same-sex couples could begin marrying in Florida on January 6.

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Bondi said if the stay was not extended, some, but not all, county clerks in Florida would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, causing confusion throughout the state. She said that would happen because the lawsuit against Florida’s ban only named the clerk in tiny Washington County in the Panhandle.

Earlier this week, the state clerks association warned its members that they could be risking misdemeanor prosecution under state law if they issue licenses before the appeal is fully settled. It is unclear how many plan to take that advice.

In Kissimmee, Fla., near Orlando, Osceola County Clerk of the Courts Armando Ramirez said Thursday that if the stay was lifted, his courthouse would open at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 6 to issue marriage licenses and possibly perform services.

Update: Florida attorney Nancy Brodzki said Saturday she is “ready to file suit against any and all clerks of court who refuse to issue marriage licenses” to same-sex couples.

State judges in four South Florida counties have also declared the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but those decisions are being appealed by Bondi as well, and no marriage licenses have been issued.

Friday’s order by the Supreme Court is here

Statement by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi:

“Tonight, the United States Supreme Court denied the State’s request for a stay in the case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Regardless of the ruling it has always been our goal to have uniformity throughout Florida until the final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has now spoken, and the stay will end on January 5.”

Statement by ACLU of Florida attorney Daniel Tilley:

“Now that the last-ditch efforts of Governor Scott and Pam Bondi to delay implementation of Judge Hinkle’s ruling have failed, we turn our focus to marriage equality coming to Florida. The nation’s highest court has now given its blessing to marriage going forward in Florida.

“Those who were waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in have gotten exactly what they asked for. We expect public officials in all of Florida’s 67 counties to understand the significance of this development and look forward to full implementation of Judge Hinkle’s decision across our state.”

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